The state's lead regulator for oil and gas development says it will be five to seven years for oil exploration to start on the Turtle Mountain Reservation.
"Five to seven years is our best estimate," said Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck.
"That is the time needed to secure the Bakken leases in the known productive area. It will be difficult to divert capital, personnel and equipment to other plays until then," Helms said.
This 2011 map of the Bakken Formation shows the first 60- to 90-day average Bakken pool production by well. The Turtle Mountain Reservation in Rolette County, in the northeast corner of the Bakken Formation, and Ward County, in the upper center of the formation, are considered high-risk areas for exploration.
Delvin Cree, of Dunseith, has been contracted as oil development specialist/adviser to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and is gathering information from various sources to get the tribe ready for oil development. His sources include the Three Affiliated Tribes on the Fort Berthold Reservation, who already are involved in oil development on that reservation.
"Oil development is going to happen and the tribe needs to be prepared for it," Cree told The Minot Daily News in a story published in the July 15 edition of the newspaper.
The Turtle Mountain Reservation and Ward County are both high risk," said Helms, when asked recently about the risk level of the reservation and also Ward County.
However, Helms said, "Ward County has had some Bakken drilling with high water cut and low oil production so it would be somewhat lower risk."
Helms said federal leases are normally 10 years so operators who lease on the Turtle Mountain Reservation should have plenty of time to drill.
He said the Turtle Mountain Reservation appears to have possibly thermally mature Bakken Formation as well as Spearfish Formation and shallow gas potential.
Currently, 184 rigs are actively drilling in the oil patch in North Dakota, according to the N.D. Oil and Gas Division, a division of the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources.
In his June report for the N.D. Oil and Gas Division Web site, Helms said the Bakken and Three Forks formations continue to be the target of more than 95 percent of drilling wells.
He said drilling permit activity is fairly high, but well below record levels due to the road restrictions, weather and long waiting lists for fracturing services.
He said leasing activity remains focused on renewals and top leases in the Bakken-Three Forks thermal maturity area, but there is significant activity south of Dickinson to the South Dakota border.